August 31, 2003

Boston's 8-4 loss to the Yankees Sunday afternoon effectively gave the Yankees their sixth consecutive A.L. East title. The Red Sox stand 5½ games behind with 26 to play (and 1½ GB Seattle for the wild card). Three of those 26 games are next weekend in New York and even if Boston sweeps that series – a laughable thought after today's pathetic display – I'm skeptical of their chances to win the division.

A paucity of quality at-bats, shitty fielding, ineffective pitching and a piss-poor lineup – I think that about covers it – combined to giftwrap a win (and the series) to the hated Yankees, with one of the most reviled men in Red Sox history leading the charge. And when he left the game in the 7th inning, most of the 34,482 fans stood and cheered him. They stood and they cheered until he reemerged from the opposing dugout (prompted by the Gerbil) and tipped his Yankees cap to them – and then they cheered some more. … Fans at SoSH are divided on the subject. See comments at the end of the game thread and then here and here; there are also a few comments at Your Turn.

Many people have said they/the fans were cheering Clemens's Red Sox accomplishments and his career as one of the game's greatest pitchers. Fine. But in the context of today's game – and what it meant to the Red Sox's playoff chances – their applause was de facto cheering for what he did on the mound today. They are inseparable. A SoSH poster named "Pandemonium67" said: "If a high-ranking U.S. officer defects and joins the enemy, you don't cheer him when he visits the UN under diplomatic immunity." ... Bill Simmons wrote two must-read columns about his feeling towards the Texas Con Man.

And since we'll be reading about twilight this and twilight that in tomorrow's papers, I thought I'd drag this out. I wrote it back on May 23 and posted it at my old Pedro site. It was news to me at that time, so I figure it's probably news to a lot of Red Sox fans:

History is a funny thing. ... This SoSH thread includes a link to some Boston stories when Roger Clemens packed his bags for Toronto and includes Dan Duquette's "twilight of his career" comment in its proper context:

End of an Era; No return fire from Sox; Brass tried to keep ace
By Michael Silverman, Boston Herald
December 14, 1996

The Red Sox brass kept a mostly stiff upper lip yesterday, putting the shiniest gloss possible on the news that lifelong Sox Roger Clemens had left the fold.

Restraining themselves from returning the type of salvos that Clemens threw at the club, and particularly Dan Duquette, during his press conference in Toronto, the general manager and CEO John Harrington were more subtle.

The Sox were officially "disappointed" but far from devastated at losing Clemens, who, over 13 seasons, compiled a 192-111 record, three Cy Youngs, two 20-strikeout games and a share of the team lead with Cy Young for most wins and shutouts (38).

"The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career," said Duquette, who joined Harrington on a conference call yesterday afternoon. "We just want to let the fans know that we worked extremely hard to sign Roger Clemens. . . . We made him a substantial, competitive offer, by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise.

"Unfortunately, we just couldn't get together. We were hoping he could finish his career as a Red Sox and we also wanted him to establish a relationship beyond his playing career. We wanted him to have the status of a Ted Williams, but at the end of the day we couldn't get it done." ...


In the words of Mel Allen, How about that! It turns out that the "twilight" Duquette was talking about was not 1994-96, but from 1997 on (if Clemens had decided to stay in Boston), which makes perfect sense. And his infamous comment was made AFTER Clemens had signed with the Blue Jays, not during contract negotiations as everyone on the planet believes (and will continue to believe). Just another example of the mind-boggling anti-Duquette bias from the Boston media, which spread like a cancer to the national media. This particular strain is still infecting us seven years later.

P.S. Another poster in that thread wrote: "I have a video interview after Roger had his 2nd 20k game and he says 'I knew the win would be emotional as I know I'm winding down' and that was in 1996." ... Searching the net, I found this quote from the day of the 20K game [September 18, 1996]: "I know I'm winding down and the wins haven't fallen my way this year like I would've hoped to, but now that I have to a chance to obtain that (record), I'm trying my best to make it worthwhile." Also, this one from the Boston Globe: "If you work hard enough, good things will happen to you. I know I'm winding down. The wins haven't fallen my way this year.''

Reading this again on August 31, it sounds like Clemens was agreeing with Duquette that his career was winding down. But remember, it doesn't matter what actually happened – just keep believing the sports media when they tell you their version of events. It makes for a better story.
Before Saturday's game, Grady Little was asked if Pedro was "at complete, full strength?" Gump: "Yes, we feel like he is. He's ready to go today." However, after the game, Little said: "He wasn't 100 percent today. He's still a little bit affected by the sickness he had last week and it caught up with him pretty good there about the fourth inning. ... He just gets fatigued. The fatigue sets in much quicker than normal and that's exactly what happened out there today. ... We were hoping that it would all be behind him, but it wasn't totally." ... Which is it Grady?

Gordon Edes called Little's comments "hollow." He also seemed to praise Little for the McCarty move in the 8th, admitting that while the move "confounded observers" [McCarty had been 0-12 this year v. RHP] it "worked out splendidly." Yes it did, but there should be some caveat that it was a poor percentage move. ... Dave Wallace said Pedro was "gasping for air."

Ron Chimelis admits only "a pretty insensitive lout" would bash Pedro, but he willingly gets in line. "Even baseball's best pitcher is entitled to an off day. With the Red Sox and Pedro, though, it's never that simple. It's never just an off day. There's always an excuse. [Mentions Grady's flip-flop quotes] ... Martinez bristled at suggestions he wimped out of an Aug.21 start against Oakland. The suggestions were ridiculous, but they also resulted from years of accumulated credibility issues caused by his own cavalier approach."

Tony Massarotti thought Martinez looked "uncharacteristically sluggish, lethargic and disinterested." Mazz did call out the louts, though: "He was unfairly criticized for the absence by many who have no respect or understanding for the man's integrity as a competitor. It was an embarrassing Boston moment, the kind that validates claims of negativity and cynicism. ... If he is still sick, he should not have been out there at all."

In a game that needed no hyperbole, Bill Madden wrote that before Rivera struck out Mueller in the 8th, "the Red Sox were seemingly once again a pitch away from exorcising 80 years of demons." Puh-leeze. ... Now Torre thinks the Sox might be stealing signs at Fenway. Just in case, the Yankees changed their signs before the series. ... Lots of talk about Clemens's final Fenway start. ... Joel Sherman of the Post notes that Rivera threw 10 pitches with two strikes to McCarty, Merloni and Damon and could not finish any of them off (5 fouls; 5 balls). His only swing and miss was his final pitch of the inning. Since July 25, Rivera has permitted 24 hits in 18 innings and has five blown saves.

In the WTF Dept.: Manny Ramirez -- in an unaired segment from last Sunday's ESPN interview with Joe Morgan -- said that playing for the Yankees "is one of my biggest dreams right now. I know I've got a big contract here in Boston, but maybe when it's over, I'll go out there and try it."

Jim Donaldson wins the Dope of the Day award. His Projo column begins: "So, how do you like Pedro now, Sox fans? Suffice to say that the nickname on his plaque in Cooperstown won't be 'Yankee Killer.' Hopefully, the malevolent and malicious (as the super-sensitive Pedro and his easily-offended teammates see them) New England media [blah blah blah] ..."

Donaldson tries to show that Pedro can't pitch against New York by noting that the Red Sox have lost all 3 of his starts against the Yankees this year and: "In his last 10 starts against New York, going back to June 4, 2001, Martinez is 2-3 and the Red Sox are 3-7. In his last 16 starts against New York, dating back to June 14, 2000, Martinez is 3-6 and the Red Sox are 4-12."

This is ludicrious, but sadly, Donaldson is not alone. Bob Hohler points out that Pedro is "8-8 lifetime against the Yankees [and] 86-15 against the rest of the American League" and New York writer Mike Vaccaro has a "dirty little secret": "Martinez is hell against the Devil Rays and the Blue Jays, he is murder against the White Sox and the Orioles, he is larger than life against the Tigers and the Twins and the Tribe. ... But against the Damn Yankees, he is awfully damned ordinary."

From 2000-2002, Pedro started 14 games against the Yankees. In 94 innings, he allowed 64 hits, 27 runs, 27 walks and 122 strikeouts. The Yankees batted .188 and his ERA is 2.59. If that's "awfully damned ordinary," then I want 5 "awfully damned ordinary" guys on my pitching staff. And yet Donaldson, a high-honors graduate of the Joe Morgan School of Stat Analysis, looks at Pedro's 4-5 record in that time and bangs out a column.

Here are three of the no-decisions Pedro has received against New York:
Apr. 14, 2001: 7IP, 6H, 2R, 2BB, 9K
Sep. 1, 2001: 6IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 6K
July 7, 2002: 7IP, 5H, 1R, 0BB, 11K.
ERA for those 3 starts: 1.35. But those games don't count in Donaldson's analysis. I suppose Donaldson would say that Pedro is better at home this year (7-2) than on the road (3-2); yet his home ERA is 3.28 and his road ERA is 1.91. Donaldson is using 19th Century tools to solve a 21st century problem.

Another comment on Grady's quickness in sending PH to the plate: I'd love to get clarification on this. If Torre and Grady are both waiting for the other to make a move -- send up a PH or change pitchers -- what does the umpire do? There must be some sort of time restriction. The managers can't simply stand in their dugouts waiting (in vain) for the other guy to show his hand. So say this happened yesterday. The umps call Torre and Grady out to home plate. Who do the umps tell "What's your move? You've got to make it now." to? There must be a rule.

MLB Rule 4.15 says: "A game may be forfeited to the opposing team when a team: ... (b) Employs tactics palpably designed to delay or shorten the game; (c) Refuses to continue play during a game unless the game has been suspended or terminated by the umpire ..."

I looked for awhile, but found nothing about pinch-hitters and changing pitchers. My thinking: Grady is the one that has to make the first move, because the batter has an obligation to get into the batter's box within a certain amount of time. If he isn't in the box, the umpire can call ball 1 -- and more, I suppose, if it continues. The team in the field is simply waiting for the next batter to take his turn. Yesterday, Nelson was standing on the hill waiting to face his next man. I don't think Torre is under any obligation to remove the pitcher until he sees who Nelson will be facing.

If this is true, then Gump had no choice yesterday. If not, Grady is delaying the game and under Rule 4.15, the umpire could forfeit the game to the Yankees. [Hmm, now that could get Gump canned!] Grady merely waited (for example) 5 seconds to make a move rather than 15. For now, I'm changing my mind and saying Grady didn't jump the gun.

Finally, back on July 5, Clemens hit Millar and Nixon followed with a home run on the next pitch. Millar: "Try to beat us for once, instead of [going] five innings and [giving up] eight runs. It's not our fault. Make some pitches.'' ... Ortiz homered off Clemens later in the game. The Texas Con Man replied: "He has too much plate coverage. I am going to have to make adjusments the next time I face him." The New York Post added that "Clemens didn't elaborate on what he might do ... However, Ortiz may be wise not to get too comfortable in the box the next time Clemens is on the mound."

August 30, 2003

New York 10-7. ... What to say? [long exhale] Upon reflection, a game like this can answer the question of what kind of fan you are. Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? Optimist or pessimist? I could write about the positives in Saturday's game; I could just as easily focus on the failures. I'd be on the money both times, I think, so maybe I'll do both. And overall, after thinking it over for a few hours, I've decided not to get too hung up on this one game.

Good stuff: The Red Sox worked the count on Pettitte right away; he threw 30 pitches in the first inning. Nomar's triple over Bernie's head to the garage door in center scored two and Nomar crossed on Millar's single. The Yankee defense was shaky that inning. Pettitte threw Mueller's comebacker wide of second into shallow center (a double play likely would have led to a scoreless inning for Boston) and Jeter inexplicably did not cover second base on a force play. Varitek tapped the ball to the right side of the mound. Pettitte threw to second to force Millar, but it was Wilson (who is well on his way to sharing B.F. Dent's middle name, by the way) who covered the bag. While Jeter stood there, Wilson ran over, crossed over to the shortstop side of the bag, took the throw, and threw across his body to first. ... Bronson Arroyo pitched 3.1 innings of near perfect relief. ... The Red Sox rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th against Nelson, White and a very shaky Rivera (McCarty with a wall double and Damon with a bases loaded walk!).

Bad stuff: Pedro, Embree and Kim pitched horribly. Pedro lasted only 4 innings and was clearly still feeling the effects of last week's illness. His fastball topped 91 in the early going, but was most often at 88-90. He threw 27 pitches in the 3rd and 33 more in the 4th. Sending Pedro out to face Seattle last Monday just 3 days after he was in the hospital -- and one day earlier than he was scheduled to start anyway -- was a mistake. I'm sure Pedro wanted the ball, if for no other reason than to shut up the assorted mediots who questioned his manhood for missing the Oakland start. But someone -- Grady, Theo, Lucchino -- should have looked at the bigger picture and said No. According to one report, Pedro hadn't even begun eating solid food again until after the Seattle start. Boston had already won the first 3 games against the Mariners and it would have been wiser to let Martinez rest for the Yankees series.

Embree couldn't hit his spots at all and Kim (the Yankee Pinata) surrendered a 2-run bomb to Posada in the 9th that put the game out of reach. Nomar hacking at the first pitch from Rivera in the bottom of the 9th (and flying to left) was maddening, given Rivera's 27 pitches the previous inning and the fact that he couldn't find the strike zone with a GPS.

No Red Sox loss would be complete without the manager gumming up the works somehow. Once again, Gump was outmatched and outfoxed in the chess match of relievers and pinch-hitters. Jeff Nelson began the bottom of the 8th with New York up 8-4. Nomar doubled off the Monster and Ortiz walked; Millar forced Ortiz and Varitek was plunked in the ass to load the bases. Gump then sent up Walker to hit for Kapler and Torre brought in lefty Gabe White. It appears that Gump jumped the gun and Walker was announced first (this happened at least once earlier this season); if so, Gump's anxiousness cost the Sox a more favorable match-up. Walker -- clearly overmatched -- popped out to short. Gump then sent McCarty up in place of Nixon against the LH White. Torre countered with Rivera. Again, it seemed like Gump let Torre have the "last word." ... If Gump had waited a little bit in deciding between Walker/Kapler, Torre might have passed over White and brought in Rivera even earlier to face Kapler.

Gump is an idiot, but even I cannot believe that he would knowingly choose Walker over Kapler against a lefty specialist and McCarty instead of Nixon against Rivera. It seems obvious that Gump got burned twice, and Torre, with only varying degrees of crap in his pen, was able to map an escape. Yes, McCarty (after 2 two-strike fouls) doubled high off the wall to drive in 2 runs and close the gap to 8-6, but it was not a percentage move. After Rivera walked Damon to force in a run (8-7), I felt good with Mueller the Professional at the plate, but he whiffed on a fastball up around his nose.

The drama continues tomorrow afternoon, with Roger Clemens pitching (likely) his last game at Fenway Park. Wakefield goes for the Sox. ... I'll look through the papers in the morning; I have to believe that Yankees fans, pleased as they must be with the win, must be scared of Rivera's growing number of meltdowns.
Remember back in April when sportswriters were genuflecting over the Yankees' roster of seven aces? Well, it turns out that will not be enough to hold back the Boston Bombers this September. New York has now allowed 10 or more runs in three of its past four games, including a 10-5 drubbing to the Red Sox last night.

The Nation continues to enjoy the results of the Contreras signing. A big part of Contreras's success is his sinker/split-finger fastball. Damon looked foolish flailing at it in two at-bats, but he was the only Sock who didn't spot and lay off the pitch. And after Posada had two passed balls in the first inning, Contreras seemed reluctant to throw it with anyone on base. Consistently behind every hitter in the first inning, Contreras allowed 3 runs after the Yankees had touched Lowe for 2 in the top half. Given a two-run lead for the second time, the Cuban crumbled in the 4th. Nixon singled and Mueller (who leads the AL in batting average) hit a home run to dead center. Varitek walked and Kapler doubled him home. Contreras was pulled with a 1-1 count on Damon for Jeff Weaver, who was actually an improvement, although he allowed home runs to Ortiz and Nomar.

Lowe wasn't very sharp either, but after Boston retook the lead, he held New York at bay in the 5th and 6th; Timlin walked one batter in the 7th, Sauerbeck got 3 ground ball outs in the 8th and Williamson (with two runners on) struck out Soriano and Jeter to end the game. ... And thus did the hugging begin; Kapler described "a sense of camaraderie... there's a lot of love on this team between the players. It's something you don't always see. There's a lot of affection, to be honest with you. It's kind of cool."

Ortiz was asked when he thought the Red Sox offense would slow down: "December." ... Joel Sherman says it's hard to believe, but the Red Sox are the better team. Then again, he predicted the Red Sox would get by the Yankees and win the 1999 World Series. ... Elsewhere in the Post: "The Yankees' bread and butter [starting pitching] is stale and smothered with mold." [By the way, I searched several places for that "seven aces" quote, but had no luck. If anyone can find it, send it to me at:] ... Manny was out with a throat infection. I hope he is well enough to play Saturday, as he is .414 against Pettitte (24-for-58), with 7 doubles, 3 home runs and only 4 strikeouts. ... Also, Nomar went shopping for his wedding tux.

Here's a quote from Yankee shill Michael Kay (his April column was headlined "Yanks a virtual lock in AL East"): "If the Yankees don't win the American League East by at least 10 games, I would be shocked. ... the Yankees are so much better than the Boston Red Sox that they simply should not be on the same level. And they aren't. ... In sum, there is no way they can keep up with the Yankees for a 162-game season."

Pedro and Pettitte at 1pm.

August 29, 2003

Laura, my partner of more than 16 years, is a life-long Yankees fan. We both got hooked on our respective teams in the volatile mid-to-late 1970s. This summer, thanks to a second TV and MLB's Extra Innings, we now watch our teams in separate rooms, occasionally flipping over to the other's game (usually right after overhearing a woo-hoo or a curse). It works out pretty nicely. Tonight, though, I'll come out of the office and we'll watch together into the living room. One thing is certain: at no point during the evening will we be cheering at the same time. ... Even though I'll have to contend with the YES-men due to the regional blackout, the next 6 hours can't go by fast enough.

Boston starts the three-game series 4½ games behind New York (down from a season-high of 7½ on August 21) and ½ game up on Seattle for the wild card. People might call these games "must wins" for the Red Sox, but they are not (at least mathematically speaking); however, it would be exceedingly helpful if Boston could win at least 2 of 3.

Derek Lowe has been pitching very well lately (3 runs and 12 hits in 18.1 innings in 3 starts against Oakland and Seattle) and his blister (which shortened his start on August 19) will not be a problem. He's also at home, where his ERA is much more attractive (3.13 to 6.78). ... Damian Jackson must start at second base. Todd Walker has minimal range and trouble with the DP pivot seemingly more times than not. Which isn’t Walker’s fault; he is what he is. It’s up to Grady Gump to have the best infield defense for a groundball pitcher. Sitting Walker will also allow Huckleberry Happytalk to put Bill Mueller in the #2 spot. ... (And in the future, Walker ought to play deeper, back near the outfield grass like Soriano does. It allows more time to get to the ball and gives the impression of having average range. So Walker can try that out on Saturday. Tonight, I want him in the clubhouse playing cards with David McCarty.) ... Top hitters against Lowe: Giambi (8-27, 3 HR, 7BB), Posada (8-28, 6 BB), Jeter (11-37, all singles) and Matsui (5-9).

Jose Contreras threw a dandy against Baltimore last time out (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R), but he has yet to start against a decent team, working against Detroit, Cincinnati and the Orioles. I'm curious how he begins against a (hopefully) patient team with a .498 slugging percentage. ... No Red Sox batter has more than 1 at-bat against Contreras; Nomar and Ortiz are both 1-1 with a double; Damon and Varitek are 0-1; Walker, Manny and Mueller all walked in their only plate appearances.

Some Gotham Media: Bob Klapisch writes that "the northeast's annual apocalypse has officially arrived" (he also wants to see how Clemens adjusts to Ortiz on Sunday); the NY Post on the Yankees' baggage; the Sox are confident; my first Yankees Magic Number sighting (it's 26); and the obligatory 1978 story. Links to all the New York and Boston papers here.

David Halberstam reports on the State of the Nation. ... Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post says we are lucky to have Pedro, who has a 97-27 (!!) record in Boston. ... Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly’s career ERA is 1.73 -- the lowest in history for a pitcher with a minimum of 100 innings. ... Derek Zumsteg looks at the AL Cy Young race, as does Jim Caple. ... Obey Pedro’s Mystery Link. ... I've also added links to a few more blogs (Sox and non-Sox).

Finally: If those who can't do, teach, then shouldn't those who can do never teach? Joe Morgan must be one of the dumbest men alive when it comes to baseball analysis. In the very first answer in his latest ESPN Chat Wrap, Morgan writes: "You don't send a pitcher out to the mound and say 'get a good ERA.' You want him to win games." Wrong. Run prevention is a pitcher's goal. A pitcher who wins an 8-7 game did not perform better than one who lost 2-1. Morgan writes (regarding ERA) that "If the team makes mental mistakes, the pitcher still pays for it," but in his final comment turns 180 degrees: "ERA is like a batting average ... just a personal thing. In the case of a pitcher, the only way you can truly judge a pitcher is his wins and losses." Sheesh. Other amusing comments like how Ponson (who has never been in the playoffs) will give the Giants the necessary post-season experience are discussed here. Boy of Summer often nitpicks Joe's chats; here's an older one. It's mind-boggling that someone this clueless has what is likely the plum regular season baseball announcing gig: Sunday Night Baseball.

August 28, 2003

Louis William Merloni is back in Boston. San Diego sent the infielder back east in exchange for AA pitcher Rene Miniel. Merloni hit .272 in 151 at-bats for the Padres, with an OBP of .362. The Red Sox transferred Robert Person to the 60-day DL to make room for the Governor. ... A few AL East graphs. ... Today: Yankees and Athletics win, Mariners lose; Boston trails New York by 4½ and is ½ game ahead of Seattle for the wild card. ... Michael "I'm Objective" Kay on Red Sox fans: "They overestimate their team because they are overcompensating for their feelings of inferiority of the Yankees. I honestly think that whenever they are ahead, the emotion they feel is more of a fear of being caught rather than the euphoria of having only the wind in front of you." ... Could someone please pass this around the Sox clubhouse tomorrow afternoon?
Jason Varitek banged the game-tying home run and Walker and Ortiz put the game on ice, but John Burkett was the guy who cowboyed up the most last night. Facing Roy Halladay, dragging a 14.73 ERA against Toronto this season and pitching on three days rest for the first time in almost five years, Burkett threw six solid innings. ... The last time he started on three days rest was September 1, 1998, allowing four runs in .2 of an inning and throwing only 18 pitches.

Jeff Horrigan's game story begins: "For 85 years, New Englanders have insisted that the planets would have to be aligned just right for the star-crossed Red Sox to finally win a World Series title. With Mars glimmering on the horizon this week as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, it was only fitting that the Sox launched a couple of balls into orbit ..."

Casey Fossum threw only 2 pitches for Pawtucket before a line drive was hit off his left knee. X-rays were negative, although Fossum is in Boston for further examination. Casey: "The trainer there said it hit the femur and that's the toughest bone in the body to break." ... I like David Ortiz -- a lot. ... Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who rarely has a bad word to say about anyone, took a few shots at David Wells for not throwing between starts as he should. Wells was pounded by the White Sox last night. "He needs to do more work. He has not been throwing between starts [for probably a month], and it shows." And for the third start in a row, Diva Wells hightailed it out of the locker room without talking to reporters.

Reading material for a day off: Jonathan Daly looks back at the first night game in baseball history. ... Portland Sox Fan's Blog has a Fenway Cam that takes a shot of the park every (I think) 5 minutes. ... A short piece at Musing from RSN says Pedro has been both a "super hero and a complete baby" and has worn out his time in Boston. Okay, he's a Yankees fan, but he doesn't want Martinez in the Bronx either. ... Jayson Stark notes that Augie Ojeda of the Cubs was intentionally walked on August 12 even though his batting average was .000 (0-for-9). Also: In 2001, Blue Jays third baseman Luis Lopez was intentionally walked in his first ML at-bat. ... And Larry Mahnken, who writes one of my favorite blogs, takes a long look at the Yankees roster and their chances in the playoffs. ... Well, that's if they make the playoffs!

August 27, 2003

Red Sox top Jays 6-3 thanks to Tater Todd! The White Sox blast the Yankees for the second straight night (13-2 and 11-2), so Boston is 4 games back. Yanks play Thursday afternoon; Sox off. ... What are the odds of the Red Sox making the playoffs? As of Wednesday morning, 74.1%. The percentages of Oakland and Seattle were much lower a couple of days ago. ... "Why are we Red Sox fans?" I love reading this stuff. ... Immerse yourself in the genius that is ee gammings: "Brian Cashman was interested in acquiring Derek Lowe in exchange for Steve Karsay, but backed off when rumors reached him that Lowe is so vain, he tried to get himself digitally inserted into reruns of Beverly Hills 90210, which wouldn't go over well in a clubhouse with interesting players like Ruben Sierra."
Toronto 12-9. That was one strange game. Trailing 7-1, tying it up 7-7, falling back again, having Manny K as the tying run with the bases loaded in the 8th. ... But first, ack, what a lineup. Grady apparently wanted to rest the regulars before the Yankees series and get righties in against Hendrickson, but the Red Sox already have Thursday off. And with Boston, Oakland and Seattle having identical records, every game counts.

I see little reason for having Mirabelli in for Varitek. The "personal catcher for Wakefield" nonsense has to stop and contrary to history, Mirabelli has been absolutely useless against lefties this year (.464 OPS). And why is the best defensive first baseman (McCarthy) playing LF? Ortiz is too hot to sit; benching him reminds me of when Jimy would sit a player who was 4-for-5 the night before. ... Damon was out because he was sore after banging into the wall making a catch on Monday. The Corpse of Todd Walker was 4-for-10 against Hendrickson and Mirabelli was 3-for-4 so maybe Gump was mesmerized by those meaningful stats (cough) ... But then McCarty hits a 2B and HR in his 2 AB and Belly goes 2-for-2 and is now 5-for-6 v Hendrickson! So the blind squirrel found a couple of nuts.

Gump once again showed he is allergic to any form of confrontation. A horrible obstruction call gave back a Toronto run in the second inning that had been thrown out at the plate. Hinske, on first, was running on the pitch and Nomar was coming over to cover the bag. Hinske dodged the ball hit past him into right field and as he rounded second, Nomar jumped back out of the way. There was no contact and Hinske never slowed or stumbled. He did, however, try to score and was thrown out 9-6-2. Nomar argued the call right away, which was made by the first base ump, who was out of position. Gump came out of the dugout, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, but apparently kept his mouth shut. NESN's cameras didn't show him during the argument at all.

Even giving Wakefield as much rope as possible, Gump still managed to leave him in two batters too many in the 4th. Seriously, Little should trademark that move; that way, when any manager has a similar slow hook, Grady can make some extra bucks. ... Phelps doubled, Hinske doubled, Johnson grounded out and Hudson doubled. THAT was the time to pull Wakefield -- he had nothing pretty much all night. But Gump sends Wallace out to chat. Bordick singles to center. Gump sits on his hands. Catalanotto, who had pounded an 2-run HR in the previous inning, doubles. Then Gump comes out. Shitty, clueless, brain-dead managing. Textbook Gump.

And in the bottom half of the inning, 7 straight Boston batters reach base, so what does Gump do? He decides to give the Blue Jays an out by having Walker bunt. Theo can Gump-proof the roster as much as humanly possible (and he has), but as long as Gump is allowed to loiter in the dugout, he'll keep throwing wrenches into the offensive machinery.

In the papers: Boston is looking at Mike Bordick or Frank Catalanotto; Red Sox management would like the whole Hurricane Pedro mess to blow over; the Providence Journal continues its extensive series on the changing demographics and culture of baseball; a microstudy of last week's loss w/17 LOB; almost the entire Portland Beavers PCL is suspended for chasing a fan; long interview of J.P. Ricciardi from a Blue Jays blog; finally, Halladay v. Burkett tonight.

August 26, 2003

This will be a continuation of a bloggish thing I did at this site. My other website is dedicated to the 1918 Red Sox and the book I wrote about that team and season.

Four days ago, Pedro Martinez lay in a hospital bed receiving intravenous fluids for dehydration while running a 101-degree fever; he also had severe pharyngitis, abdominal discomfort, and an elevated white blood cell count (30% above normal). On Monday afternoon, he threw 87 pitches over 6 innings, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks and a run. He lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.29 and (despite his time missed so far this season) reclaimed the league lead in strikeouts. But that wasn't enough for some mediots, because Martinez didn't cure cancer between innings or figure out how to bring peace to the Middle East while sitting on the can. ... "Calling in sick?" Sean McAdam noted that "one of the first things Martinez told team physician Bill Morgan early Thursday morning was that he had to find a way to make his scheduled start against the Oakland A's that night."

Kevin Millar is apparently "keeping a list of writers who disparaged the team." Now this is what the players should have been doing for at least the last 3 seasons. Identify the a-holes and simply shut them out, and give the fair and balanced© writers a scoop or two. That way, you punish the idiots, you show that being an objective journalist has its rewards and the players can still connect with the fans through the daily papers.

Two observations: First, if Martinez is sincere about not talking to the media, he shouldn't talk to the media -- at all -- on the record or off. Because at some point, he'll say something that is simply too hot for a reporter to keep under his hat, like "I'm getting the hell out of this town." Second, I don't think it's a coincidence that the two of the three players (Pedro and Manny; Nomar is probably considered "white") giving the media the cold shoulder have dark skin. ... If anyone doubts Martinez's guts and willingness to play in pain, they should remember his performance on October 11, 1999 against Cleveland in ALDS Game 5: six no-hit relief innings with his back hurting so much he said later that he wanted to cry out after each pitch.

Todd Walker is back in the second spot because Grady Gump thought "the swapping of lineup spots helped neither batter." I looked at the box scores -- and he's dead wrong. Mueller played in all 16 games and reached base in 25 of his 74 plate appearances. Walker played in 13 games (11 starts) and was on base in 8 of 46 plate appearances. So I'm supposed to believe there is no benefit to the Red Sox if its #2 hitter has an on-base percentage of .338 or .174? (Further Futility Note: Three of Walker's times on base came in one game; in the other 12 games his OBP was .119. That is not a typo.) The move of Mueller to #2 helped the Red Sox increase its chances of scoring runs, which I maintain is fairly important, especially at this time of the year.

Yankee Match-Ups: Lowe/Contreras, Pedro/Pettitte and Wakefield/Clemens. Because of an extra day of rest due to an off-day, Martinez will also open the Yankees series in New York on September 5.

August 25, 2003

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